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Nestor & Zimonjic Ready For More

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Zimonjic & Nestor© Getty ImagesNenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor won nine titles in 11 finals in 2009, including the coveted Wimbledon crown.

After an incredible 2009 season finished with the disappointing loss of the No. 1 team ranking, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic look for more consistency in their third year as a duo.

“I’m going to keep playing until Rio [de Janeiro, the venue of the 2016 Olympic Games],” said Daniel Nestor, straight-faced, in the players’ restaurant at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in April. “I’m just waiting to hear where the 2020 Olympics are being held.”

Few peers would doubt Nestor’s assertion, yet the most successful and competitive player on the doubles circuit knows he is entering the twilight of his 20-season pro career. Realistically, moments later, he admits, “I definitely see myself going to London in 2012, when I’m almost 40.”

The Toronto native is just 30 victories shy of Australian Todd Woodbridge’s all-time 782 match-wins record and looks set to become the first player in ATP World Tour history to break the 800-wins barrier.

In tandem with Nenad Zimonjic, an articulate and polite Serbian, the pair has won 20 titles from 29 tour-level finals. Nestor has 68 career trophies, which is the most amongst active doubles players while, Zimonjic, a pro since 1995, has lifted 36 crowns overall.

Individually, they are similar players: aggressive shot-makers, who are comfortable playing tennis on any surface. As a team they are explosive, but both admit they are not always consistent week-in, week-out. It is something they are hoping to improve upon in their third year as a team.

“With the Match Tie-break scoring system and deciding points for the game, it can be a factor in why we haven’t had the same consistency as the Bryans [Bob and Mike] for example,” says Zimonjic. “But once we get into the tournament we’re a difficult team to beat.”

“When we do start playing well, we are difficult to beat. When we’re hot, we’re almost unstoppable”

Nestor, who has partnered 45 players since 1991, adds, “If you compare us to the Bryans, then they are sure the most consistent and there is definitely something to be said.

“Our attacking style is maybe more aggressive than other teams. When we do start playing well, we are difficult to beat. When we’re hot, we’re almost unstoppable. Now we’ve played together a couple of years, the lulls will be ironed out.”

Nestor and Zimonjic have already won four titles from seven finals this year and trail the Bryan twins by 255 points in the 2010 ATP Doubles Team Rankings going into the second major championship of the year, Roland Garros in Paris.

Nestor admires and respects the 32-year-old Californians, “who don’t really have weaknesses and have adapted to the changes in tennis over the years”.

Yet, it is the memory of last year’s disappointing performances at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London that is spurring them on to re-claiming the ATP World Tour Champions title that they won in 2008.

“Last year, we wanted to finish No. 1 and we didn’t play our best [at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals] in London,” says Nestor. “That was the biggest disappointment. We got beaten by a hot team in our first match [Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski] and didn’t bounce back.

“We feel we are capable of winning every match we play, but the second match [a loss to Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak] was the biggest disappointment of the year.”

Nestor, ZimonjicZimonjic says, “If you compare and break it down year-on-year, then yes the Bryans ought to have finished No. 1 in 2008 and us last year. Then at the end of the year, we had the best season of our careers as a team: nine titles and two finals. Five of those matches in the finals were against the Bryans.

“We tried to finish on a good note, so it was definitely a disappointment not to have finished No. 1. This year we started better. It will definitely be interesting throughout the rest of the year.”

Both players believe it isn’t only the Bryans they will have to worry about at the end of the year.

“Leander [Paes] and Lukas [Dlouhy] won two Slams last year, they have won [the Sony Ericsson Open] in Miami, so it shows they can play well and they will definitely be in the mix at the top of the race at the end of the year,” says Nestor.

“We don’t put pressure on ourselves when we come to defend titles,” admits Zimonjic. “We try and keep working on our games to improve and remain consistent... There are a lot of teams who have done well in the past. [Simon] Aspelin and [Paul] Hanley, plus maybe a few more might get on a roll and surprise.”

For now, their focus is to perform well at Roland Garros and then attempt to win their third straight doubles championship at Wimbledon.

“We have won two in a row and it is something we want to continue,” says Nestor. “We play our best on grass. We’re all about winning the big tournaments."

“Right now, I think doubles is the healthiest it has been for 10-15 years”

Zimonjic, diplomatically, adds, “We try to do our best at every tournament. Roland Garros is a big goal, having reached the 2008 final and the semi-finals in 2009. So it would be nice to have a shot at the title again.

“But for sure, Wimbledon is the biggest and most recognisable event in our sport, so it would be great to stay undefeated there.”

As for doubles in the future, 33-year-old Zimonjic reckons, “It could be like a warm-up event or always something to be seen ahead of singles matches. I think the crowd would like that because they can see different skills, shorter rallies and different reactions.”

Nestor believes, “As the conventional doubles players of the 1990s retire, you’ll more likely see women’s doubles played on the men’s tour – but at a faster pace, with a lot of crosscourt rallies from the baseline and the guy at the net trying to intercept.”

“Right now, I think doubles is the healthiest it has been for 10-15 years. We’re getting more matches on centre courts and more media coverage. Doubles has a lot to offer.”

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